Oscar Wilde once described Aubrey Beardsley as an ‘ugly orchid’. A trifle cruel, and I prefer ‘exotic orchid’ myself, however I do not wish to tamper with the great bard’s words. I’ve always admired an exotic profile, and Aubrey Beardsley’s offers endless fascination… Whether I peer at the celebrated photo where he posed as a gargoyle, or probe into his life, I see layers of intrigue.
A talented, sickly creature, Beardsley has remained an enigma. His sexuality ambiguous, his erotic imagery outrageous and his linework sensual. Some claim he died a virgin – too ill to involve himself in affairs of the flesh. They suggest that his mind ran amok in a state of perpetual adolescence, wrestling with desire and fantasy, unable to experience sex with another person – male or female (it seems unlikely he had a preference). In his last days, his religious convictions lead him to regret his ‘pornographic’ phase and he asked his publisher to destroy all his erotic illustrations. Fortunately, his request was ignored and we can still enjoy and explore the recesses of Beardsley’s sexual imagination.
Due to his involvement with the Yellow Book, Beardsley fell from grace along with Oscar Wilde during Wilde’s court trials. Wilde had been seen clutching a yellow book (not positively identified) under his arm, and the assumption was made that he was closely involved with the publication of The Yellow book and all involved must be party to his ‘crimes’. A cruel reflection of the times that destroyed Wilde and Beardsley (less directly). Wilde and Beardsley were not particularly close, and Wilde (as noted by the title of this piece) was not overly fond of Beardsley. I am under the impression that they tolerated each other as they hung around in similar circles, but there was always a spark of intellectual friction.
Nothing beats a powerful nose in my opinion, so I’ve converted my hero into the ugly/exotic orchid I want him to be. His nose profile emerges from the heart of a sexually ambiguous orchid. Decorative, fluid, reflective and a little mysterious.
Please don’t think that I don’t love Oscar Wilde as well! I created The Picture of Dorian Grey a while ago to celebrate his particular genius also.
3mm plate acid etched aluminium, free floating, frameless form.
Mirror insert in the centre.
42cm x 36cm